i apologize for rambling on, but i have thought about this subject a lot....
i try to be as fescennine as i can because, "profanity is the crutch of the illiterate mother@#$%^er" and franly, i enjoy it. i can express myself quite well, but it seems more direct and way more fun (and easier, which i like because i am lazy) to insert profanity. i view profanity as the spices in the food of language. a well placed "f" word adds zing and zest, and often (for me) humor.
to me, profanity should only be offensive if used with negative feelings behind it, used to hurt someone. to me, it is the intent behind the words that is important, not the word itself.
i wonder if a group of people used the word "elbow" in the most derisive, hateful, derogatory way as much as they can, if eventually it would catch on and suddenly be offensive. you elbowing elbow, go elbow yourself. i'm gonna rip your elbowing head off your body and elbow down your neck.
i honestly can't see why people in this day and age are offended when you use a "swear word" not in an angry and mean way. saying "sorry i missed your call, i was taking a s*&t" is pretty descriptive, yet for some reason isn't acceptable outside of extremely close company.
as an aside but on the subject...
many (if not all, not sure) asian languages have honorific speech and common "low" speech, depending on who you talk to. when we stupid round-eyes spoke, we would sometimes speak what would be considered "a slap in the face" but we didn't know and we weren't trying to be disrespectful, we were just using the words we knew. they understood and didn't say anything, but we could almost see them cringe.
based off this, we would joke with ourselves about how hilarious it would be if someone only knew gutter language, because that is what they heard and learned, and were giving a briefing to high level people, and with sincere respect and as "honorifically" as possible gave a briefing full of the most vulgar offensive language. to them they are trying to communicate, and they don't realize they are cursing, there is no hatred or maliciousness behind the words. so although it sounds vulgar, can someone be offended?
again, sorry to ramble on....
---------- Post added 05-26-2010 at 02:45 PM ----------
..... If you use them in certain company they mean very little, in others it causes absolute havoc. Why are they so effective?
i wonder the same thing. the only thing i can come up with is...people often seem to look for reasons to be offended. it appears many wake up and think how can i be offended today?" i don't get it either.